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(Time : The fourth dimension)


Time (Kāla) –

Jaina concept of time runs along two distinct streams. According to the first, the time is characterised by its passage. This is a continuous and incessant process that never stops for anybody or anything. The time has been in a state of continuous flux from ever in the past, it is in a state of flux at present and will be in a state of flux forever in the future. It is this characteristic of time that has earned it the epithet, “Time and tide wait for none”. According to the second concept the time is the medium of change for everything and every–being that ever was, that is or that will ever be there. Things change with the passage of time, for in this ever–changing universe there is nothing that is constant and invariable.

Time is the fourth dimension that controls everything in the universe by not letting it to remain unaffected by its passage. It has never happened in the past, it is not happening at present nor is it ever likely to happen in future that the time has passed and the things have remained the same.

In this chapter we shall deal with the passage part of time. With respect to its passage, the time is divided into three distinct parts, the measurable time, the immeasurable time and the infinitetime. The measurable time ranges from the minutest ‘Samaya’ to the largest measurable unit Pūrvakoṭi. The immeasurable time can only be described in terms of guesses and ranges from the Palyopama (Pit–measure) and the Sāgaropama (Sea–measure) through its cyclic measures in terms of ascendant time–phase (Utsarpiṇī Kāla) and the descendant time–phase (Avasarpiṇī Kāla), Time–cycle (Kāla–cakra) to the ultimate concept of time–measure called Pudgala–parāvartana. The aim is to familiarise the readers with the intricacies of time that waits for none.

Time as a Material Constituent of The Universe –

As per the current available classification, the time is included amongst the fundamental substances amongst intangible inanimate types of matter. However, there has been some discussion on the issue of including time amongst material substances. The concept of Pañcāstikāya that excludes kāla from its reckoning and its mention as a non–astikāya forces us to believe that its inclusion amongst fundamental inanimate material substances could have been an afterthought.

The advocates of rejecting the independent matter status of kāla treat it only as a mode of jīva and pudgala. Another view–point that treats it as an independent universal material entity says that just as the motion and position have Dharmāstikāya and Adharmāstikāya as causatory universal entities, the change must also have a causatory universal entity. That causatory universal entity can be time only. Hence, ‘time’ is also an independent universal matter.

The Passage of Time –

Jaina canons mention two types of time. 1. The practical time (Vyavahāra Kāla), which can be measured in terms of numerable units such as Samaya to Pūrvakoṭi, etc. or which can be measured in terms of innumerable units such as Palyopama and Sāgaropama etc. and 2. The absolute time, which is invariably infinite.

The basic Jaina unit of time is ‘Samaya’. It is so minute that one second has some 10500 Samayas.

The Importance Of Time –

Although it may not be possible to measure the passage of such minute time–unit with the measuring devices at our disposal toady, we can claim that our Prophets did not leave even such minute period of time unaccounted for and preached that one ought not to succumb to negligence in the performance of one’s spiritual duties even for a samaya. This clearly shows the importance that the Jaina seers attached to even immeasurably small periods of time.

Some pertinent points that highlight the importance of time are as follows: –

1. Time is the medium of change. It upholds the universal law of change.

2. It provides continuity in the three time–periods – the past, the present and the future. Time is the only entity, which is there in these three times as a constant. Everything else is variable as far as its modes go.

3. It is the most dutiful of all media. It passes regularly irrespective of any irregular changes in the universe.

4. It does not repeat itself. The time once passed does not come back, ever.

5. Everything depends on time for its ageing and maturing.

6. All animate and inanimate objects change and wither with time. It does not spare anyone.

7. All–powerful nature also keeps in tune with the time.

8. All–powerful karma also depends on time for its maturing and fruition as per its limitations of time.

9. Even the God and the Lords Prophets are not beyond time.

10. The God’s incarnates (not according to Jaina belief) and Tīrthaṅkaras also abide by the dictates of time. They, too, cannot increase or decrease their life–spans even by as minuscule time as a samaya.

These reasons are enough to force us to realise the importance of time and not to trifle with it.

Measuring Time –

Jaina tradition mentions time–measurements that fall in two categories. 1. Measurable but in terms of countless smaller units and 2. Measurable in terms of countable smaller units. We have mentioned one system of reckoning time under the sub–head of ‘Kāla–dravya’ in the fourth chapter while dealing with inanimate substances in the Jaina concept of fundamental verities. Here, we shall present another system, found in the scriptures, as per the ‘Jaina Tattva Darśan’ by Śrī Vanitā Bāi Mahāsatiji –

Measurable Time (Saṅkhyāt Kāla) –

Āvalikā – The smallest measurable unit of time. (It equals innumerable Samaya, the minuscule time–unit).

Kṣullaka Bhava (KB) – 256 Āvalikā,

Śvāsocchavāsa (Prāṇa) – 17 plus KB,

Stoka – 7 Prāṇa,

Lava – 7 Stoka,

Muhurta – 77 Lava,

Ahorātra (Day and Night) – 30 Muhurta,

Pakṣa (The lunar fortnight) – 15 Ahorātra,

Māsa (The lunar month) – 2 Pakṣa (The bright and the dark lunarfortnights),

Ṛtu (Season) – 2 Māsa or 2 lunar months,

Ayana – 3 Ṛtu,

Varṣa (Year) – 2 Ayana (6 seasons or 12


Yug – 5 Varṣa,

Śatābdi – 20 Yug or 100 years,

Pūrvāṅga – 84 hundred thousand years,

Pūrva – 84 hundred thousand Pūrvāṅga or 7056×1010 years,

Śīrśaprahelikā – The largest measurable time–unit that equals 8436x10180.

Immeasurable Time (Asaṁkhyāt Kāla)

Palyopama – Pit–measure (Said to be equivalent to a time period taken to empty a pit measuring 1 Yojana (8 miles approx.) cube and filled with fine pieces of hair when each piece is taken out after the lapse of a 100 years),

Sāgaropama – Sea–measure (10 15 or ten Koṭākoṭi Palyopamas),

Time Cycles (Kāla–cakra)

Each time–cycle consists of an ascendant time phase called Utsarpiṇī Kāla and a descendant time phase called Avasarpiṇī Kāla. Each of these phases is of ten Koṭākoṭī (10 14) Sāgaropamas. Thus, each time cycle is of twenty Koṭākoṭi Sāgaropamas.

UtsarpiṇīkālaAscendant time phase comprising six eras (Ārās) in which the pleasurable time is on the ascendant and painful time is on the descendant,

Avasarpiṇīkāla– Descendant time phase, again comprising six eras in which the pleasure is on the decrease and the pain is on the increase.

Currently, we are in the fifth era of the descendant (Avasarpiṇi) time phase of the current – Huṇḍā time cycle of the duration of twenty Kot>ākoṭi Sāgaropamas. According to the Jaina precept, the age of the universe is infinite number of such time cycles in the past and it will continue to survive for another infinite such time cycles.

Time Of Complete Material Experience (Pudgala Parāvartana Kāla) –

Time taken for any living being to experience the pleasure or the pain due to each and every particle of tangible matter in the universe is called Pudgala Parāvartana Kāla. Its variations are material, spatial, time related and mode related as well as gross and fine.This time is so inestimably immense that no formulae for its estimation have been given.

Infinite Time (Ananta Kāla) –

As the very classification suggests, it is endless time.

It will be seen that the Jaina concept of time is quite immense and mentions of such time–scales is not found in other religious philosophies.

Yet another feature of time is that its ultimate particles do not combine to form aggregates and, therefore, time exists in the form of individual time–particles only.

Conclusion –

Time is an essential material as well as controlling feature of the universe. It’s characteristics of uninterrupted passage and of changing everything that comes its way, makes it the most powerful medium that exists. It is rightly said that everything depends on time.Svastika

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